“Colitis” is a term for any medical condition of the colon accompanied by inflammation. (Comes from colon + “itis”- a medical term for inflammation).
The bowels are major parts of the digestive system. Think of it as a hollow tube that goes from the mouth to the anus. Food goes through it as it gets broken down, digested and its nutrients absorbed by the body. The colon is near the end of the bowels. It is a wide part of the intestines and has thin walls. The colon contains the feces or waste products of digestion.
These waste products of digestion are stored until our need to go to the toilet. Because of this, the colon is always exposed to microorganisms which could cause harm to it. The colon is also under pressure from the bulk of the waste products inside. The pressure depends on the kind and quantity of the food we eat. The walls of the bowels are thinner compared to the other parts of the digestive tract.
Feces are a natural magnet for microbes like bacteria. So this means that the colon is constantly exposed to a dirty environment. Harmful bacteria that cause disease have many chances to pass through its thin walls and cause infection. An infection with symptoms of inflammation then happens.
Causes and types of Colitis:
There are several types of colitis, classified depending on the cause and severity of the condition.
- Infectious colitis – happens when bad microorganisms grow and multiply out of control. The insides of the intestines are naturally full of bacteria and other microorganisms. But infection happens and cause toxic conditions to cause inflammation. A patient will experience symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and weakness.
- Crohn’s disease and diverticulitis are also forms of colitis. These two bowel diseases are discussed in detail in previous articles.
- Perforation (puncture or rupture) of the bowel is dangerous and life-threatening. An inflammation that goes on for a long time (more than a couple of months) weakens the intestinal wall. This makes it easy to tear into a hole. This is like a ruptured appendix (from an acute appendicitis). The contents inside, full of harmful bacteria, can spill into the abdomen and other organs of the body. This will result in serious infection and inflammation.
Symptoms could be similar to those caused by a ruptured appendix like severe abdominal pain, fever, shock. Immediate hospitalization and surgery are required for this emergency.
- Ulcerative colitis, as the name suggests, is an inflammation of the colon caused by ulcers. Ulcers are just like wounds that appear on the inside lining of the colon walls. There are many causes, such as infection by harmful bacteria. Other substances can also injure and eat away the surface of the colon. The body responds to it which ends up in swelling and inflammation. Symptoms do not happen suddenly but get worse over time.
Just like a wound injury, blood can ooze out and fill the ulcer. This is also an attempt by the body to heal the ulcer. But if this is unsuccessful, the ulcer can fester and get worse. The ulcer will then spread to surrounding areas. Since the walls of the colon are not that thick, the ulcer can go deeper until it also penetrates the wall itself. The result is the same serious condition that needs emergency treatment.
- Ischemic colitis happens from a significant reduction in the flow of blood to the colon. Ischemia (pronounced as “is-khe-mia”) refers to the decrease in the amount of oxygen going to the colon. Like all organs of the body, the colon depends on oxygen delivered by the blood through the arteries. The colon needs oxygen and nutrients so the muscles can function normally.
When the flow of blood is impeded, the colon may become inflamed. The normal flow of blood can be interrupted when the arteries get too narrow. Reasons for this are mostly the same as for illnesses like stroke and heart disease. A person’s age, diet, and lifestyle are also contributing factors. Ischemic colitis may produce symptoms such as fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea with blood.
- Fulminant colitis, also called toxic colitis, is a more serious stage of colitis. This happens when the inflammation causes the walls of the colon to lose their muscle tone or tension. It is very important for the colon to maintain muscle tone. This enables it to store the stool wastes and then pass it on to the rectum for the toilet routine. If the muscles are not able to properly contract, it would not be able to move the wastes. If the stool wastes are not disposed of properly, these remain in the colon and add to the toxic conditions.
The extreme end-stage of this toxicity is damage to the colon walls. The colon dilates, or relaxes too much. If seen, it seems to inflate like a balloon. X-rays of the abdomen can show trapped gas inside the paralyzed sections of the intestine. With the loss of muscle tone, the colon cannot contract properly to move the feces and intestinal gas. The abdominal distension can be severe, and patients should seek medical attention immediately. The goal of treatment is to prevent the bowel from rupturing.
The symptoms of this condition include difficulty to expel the feces and an enlarged abdomen, or bloat. If the feces get trapped inside the colon, toxic substances can also begin to leak into the blood and cause weakness and fever. The doctor calls this toxemia, septicemia, or blood poisoning.
- Microscopic colitis – is a type of colitis that is not easily examined. The colon, when observed through an endoscope (a flexible tube with a camera at the end and inserted through the rectum), appears normal or almost normal. But the patient suffers from frequent diarrhea for a long time. There is no blood seen in the stool. Abnormalities can only be seen through a tissue biopsy. A very tiny piece of the inner wall of the colon is a sample and observed under a microscope. Abnormalities include too many numbers of cells associated with inflammation. These include certain white blood cells from the blood that are part of the immune system. This means the body has been sending these cells to the colon in very high numbers in order to fight off the cause of the condition. This is why the condition is called “microscopic” colitis.
In some conditions, what is seen instead is a layer of collagen fibers within the walls of the colon. This could be a way for the body to reinforce the weakened the walls with layers of collagen.
This disease usually happens among middle-aged adults and is more common in females than in males. The unique symptom of microscopic colitis is watery diarrhea which could last for a long time. There is no blood seen with the stool. There can be uncontrolled bowel movements. The patient will have sudden urges to go to the toilet between 4-9 times a day, more in severe cases. Diarrhea could begin suddenly. In other cases, it slowly gets worse over time. Other symptoms are pain or cramping in the abdomen, frequent flatulence, bloat, fatigue, weight loss, and nausea. Some patients also experience joint pain or arthritis.
Even doctors and researchers are not completely sure what causes collagenous colitis. But the use of certain pharmaceutical drugs could be probable reasons.
The following are included in the list of suspects. So if you are taking one or more, you should watch out for the possible complication:non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin lansoprazole (Prevacid) sertraline (Zoloft) acarbose (Prandase, Precose) ranitidine (Tritec, Zantac) ticlopidine (Ticlid)proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) statins, Beta-blockers selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
- Pseudomembranous colitis is one more example of the danger of using pharmaceutical medications. Antibiotics prescribed for microbial infections highlights this danger if used for a long time. It could alter the microbial environment within the colon. This enables the bacterium Clostridium tetani (a relative of the bacterium which causes tetanus infection) to multiply tremendously and colonize the colon wall. The colon wall gets injured from toxins coming from the bacterium and this results in inflammation.
After a long time, the affected colon wall thickens because of the condition. The inside of the colon It looks like a new skin, or a scab that forms on top of a wound – but very thin (the reason for its name pseudo = false + membrane). This is how the colon reacts to the infection. If this spreads to a large area, it can seriously impact normal functions and the elimination of feces. It can produce symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, constipation, difficulty in the toilet, fever, fatigue, and pain.
Many antibiotics like cephalosporins, clindamycin, penicillin, and fluoroquinolones have been reported to change the digestive environment. This enables the bacterium to multiply rapidly and bring about this disease.
Other organs aside from the digestive can be affected depending on the kind of colitis affecting the patient. Symptoms can be fever, chills, depression, fatigue, and dehydration.
- When you visit your physician, he will likely examine your abdomen for tenderness and pain. For women, the doctor will want to make sure that what you have is not a disease of the reproductive organs. So he might examine the vagina and uterus.
- The doctor is expected to do several tests to successfully and accurately identify the disease. These tests will be able to exclude other possible diseases with similar symptoms.
- For women of the right age, a pregnancy test to rule it out as the possible cause of abdominal pain.
- A liver enzyme test could be done to rule out liver disease. This test detects concentrations of certain enzymes in the blood. If the liver is damaged, these will leak into the blood at abnormally high levels. A negative result means normal levels of the enzyme and the disease does not involve the liver.
- A stool test will rule out infection if you’re having diarrhea. A positive test could indicate diverticulitis.
- Blood tests will check if an infection is happening, which is the case for diverticulitis.
- Colonoscopy – a thin tube with a camera at the end (a colonoscope) is inserted into the rectum. This is then guided into the colon. Before the procedure begins, you will be given a laxative to clear out your bowels. This will enable the doctor to directly see any abnormal condition in the colon.
- A CT scan will enable the doctor to visually see the pouches and if these are inflamed. This test can strongly confirm diverticulitis and even show how severe it is.
- Biopsy- This is a laboratory test where a very tiny piece of the colon is taken from the inside. A tiny cutting instrument will remove a piece of the tissue wall. The doctor sees and controls the whole procedure using the colonoscope’s camera. The tissue is then processed in the laboratory to make it easier to see any abnormality within the sample.
Western Medicine Treatments and Managing the Illness
The principles behind the treatment and management of the disease
To treat their patients, doctors practice what is called conventional “Western” medicine. The treatment uses pharmaceuticals to counteract symptoms of inflammation and pain. Drugs are also used to cure microbial infections. The types of drugs used and for how long depends on the severity of symptoms.
For diarrhea, as an example, the goal is to lessen the number of bowel movements per day. It is hoped that the patient’s quality of life will improve so that daily routine activities can be done.
The main types of drugs used by the doctor are antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. Antibiotics used are usually the broad-spectrum type. It means these can fight off infections caused by many kinds of bacteria present in the bowels. Anti-inflammatory drugs are used to ease the pain and swelling of the affected organs. Here are two
commonly prescribed medicines (generic or name of the active substance/ingredient in the drug is given) below.
Rifaximin – is a broad-spectrum antibiotic. This drug is poorly absorbed into the blood by the body. This makes the drug stay inside the bowels where it is needed and not go into the body where unwanted effects can happen.
Mesalazine – is an anti-inflammatory drug commonly used for bowel disorders. This drug works by controlling the patient’s own immune system which releases all those substances causing inflammation.
In worse cases when the condition no longer responds to the drugs being given, the doctor may recommend surgery to remove the affected parts of the colon and stitch the remaining tissue walls back together. This can be risky, especially if the patient already has a serious condition or is very old.
The first step recommended by doctors is to discontinue the use of drugs that cause further damage to the colon and worsens the disease. These include drugs used to treat another illness the patient may have. Among these are drugs prescribed to remove inflammation called NSAIDs. There are lots of drugs belonging to this group. The best known drugs of this group are aspirin and ibuprofen. These are prohibited by doctor against colitis as these further irritate the colon and worsen symptoms.
Certain antibiotics known to cause pseudomembranous colitis are also prohibited. The doctor might then prescribe another antibiotic might then be prescribed to try to kill off the infection.
Food to Avoid
An important part of the therapy recommended by doctors is giving the colon plenty of rest. Many foods are bulky, hard to digest, and have parts that can irritate the already sensitive and inflamed wall lining of the colon. Such foods include nuts, popcorn, beef jerky fruit plums, high-fiber whole-grain cereals, pulpy fruit. These can over-stretch and directly damage the already sensitive lining of the colon wall.
For mild or moderate cases, this therapy includes bed rest at home while the patient is made to eat a clear fluid diet for 24 hours. If symptoms resolve quickly, no further care is needed. In some cases, diarrhea stops in a few weeks (with or without treatment), but it can happen again.
If the symptoms get more severe, then a more complete rest is needed. Administering fluids through the veins to keep the patient and supplied with minimal nutrition. Patients who become very ill often need this therapy.
Alternative Natural Healing
This is a newer approach compared to conventional “western” medicine. Much of it is based on traditional therapy practiced by village healers through the centuries. But recent advances in scientific research has given it a lot of evidence and credibility. This is called functional medicine. There are even many doctors educated in “Western” medicine who now use this approach.
The Mazor method we use is based on functional medicine. It adopts a more holistic approach to try and find out the root cause of the disease. Any procedure or steps done to try and treat the disorder is tailored for the individual patient’s condition. It is unlike the conventional which adopts a “one-size fit’s all” approach.
The first antibiotics (ie.penicillin) were extracted from fungus and molds. Numerous other drugs were taken from substances in leaves, flowers and other parts of many plants. Modern science and technology then purified and then synthesize these into the pharmaceuticals we use. So many of what the folk healers were doing through the ages made sense after all.
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